The Culinary Architect: My favorite birthday meal

Alexandra Troy
Zuppe de Clams and Turkey "Meat" Sauce

If I had a dollar for every time someone asks me, “What is your favorite meal?”… This year for my birthday, I decided that instead of going out, I would make my own favorite meal.

Considering that all the work would be done by me, I also took into account a few shortcuts. Starting off the meal with a platter of mozzarella, burratta and proscuitto is easy, make-ahead ready, and a delicious way to start off the evening.

Speaking of mozzarella and burrata, I just adore the freshness and creaminess of Maplebrook Farm’s cheeses from Bennington, Vt. Contact them at, 802-440-9950. Follow this with My Favorite Baked Artichokes, a take-off of one of Frank Sinatra’s favorite dishes.

From the time I was 8 years old, Zuppa de Clams has always been my most requested dish growing up. Knowing that not everyone likes clams, I make my homemade turkey “meat” sauce and serve both — the clams as one choice and the “meat” sauce as another with linguini on the side. Finish off the meal with bread to soak up all the deliciousness.

What would be a celebration without a cake? Just add a store bought favorite cake and you have a feast. Make one or all of these dishes and you are going to enjoy a delectable meal whether you are celebrating or just enjoying a delicious meal with friends and family.

(Serves 6)

Mozzarella, burratta and proscuitto*
My Favorite Artichokes
Zuppa de Clams
Turkey “meat” sauce*

*Recipe Not Given

My Favorite Artichokes

3 large artichokes, cleaned, trimmed and rubbed with lemon to prevent discoloration
1 lemon, halved
1 1/2 cups homemade bread crumbs or store bought Italian
1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (a total of 3/4 of cheese)
Salt and pepper to taste
Drizzle fine quality olive oil

1. Put 1-inch of water in a heavy-bottomed casserole, enough to hold the artichokes in a single layer. Add the artichokes, stem side down, drizzle with oil.

2. Equally disperse bread crumbs between the three artichokes. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of cheese.

3. Cover and bring to a simmer over high heat. Lower heat and allow artichokes to gently steam for about 45 minutes or until the artichoke bottoms are soft when pierced with a sharp knife.

4. Using tongs, carefully remove artichokes from water, reserving pan juices. Pour pan juices into six individual ramekins. (These will be used for dipping when eating the artichoke leaves.)

5. Place artichokes on a pan and sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese on artichokes. Place artichokes under a broiler set to the highest temperature and broil until golden brown. (Do not walk away as all broilers are different and you do not want to burn the artichokes.) Serve on a platter with ramekins of broth for dipping on the side.

Zuppa de Clams
(Adapted from my childhood memories)

1/8 cup best quality olive oil
6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 anchovies, chopped (this adds a special depth to the sauce, but may be omitted)
8 oz. clam stock (homemade or store bought)
8 oz. white wine
1 25 oz. can crushed tomatoes
4 dozen clams, scrubbed and cleaned

1. In a Dutch oven pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and saute until soft, approximately 5-10 minutes. Add anchovies and continue sauteing for 5 minutes.

2. Add white wine, clam stock and tomatoes, stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. (You may simmer this for 10 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how much time you have. The more it simmers, the more intense the flavor becomes.)

3. Ten minutes before serving, add the clams, toss, cover and cook on medium heat until the clams open.

4. Discard any clams that do not open.

5. I like to serve the clams and sauce by ladling it into soup plates from the pot at the table. Serve bread alongside to soak up all the sauce.

Alexandra Troy is owner of Culinary Architect Catering, a 35 year-old Greenvale-based company specializing in private, corporate and promotional parties. Need help making your holiday parties delicious and stress-free, call 516-484-7431 and you will be a guest at your own party.  If you make any of these recipes, send me a photo at

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Alexandra Troy

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